Dining Out With Your Preschooler
Don’t rely on children’s menus to keep your tot fed
Ideally by the preschool years you’ve instilled some sense of table manners in your child, but despite your best efforts chances are there is still room for improvement. 3-to-5-year-olds are loathe to sit still and feign politeness for more than 20-minute stretches, so you need some strategies up your sleeve to help you endure a meal out in public – a frequent occurrence while traveling.
Try not to wait until your preschooler is famished before heading out to eat. Once a youngster gets past the point of hunger, moods and ‘tudes take a nosedive. You might even want to bring some cheese, crackers or fruit for your impatient child to munch on while waiting for the order to arrive – it can make all the difference between having a pleasant outing and having to abort in shame.
Be sensitive to differing cultural attitudes to young children in restaurants and ask a local to suggest a family-tolerant establishment for you to eat at. This doesn’t mean you’re restricted to fast food and family chains, but adjustments such as having your main meal at noon or choosing an outdoor sidewalk café might be in order.
Not all restaurants have a children’s menu – and frankly, a lot of children’s menus are full of junk – but you can always share off your plate or find something that’ll be acceptable. Now’s not necessarily the time to enforce the “clean plate” rule if it’ll erupt into a battle of wills.
Take some small toy distractions with you when you dine at a restaurant or visit a friend or relative’s home. Once your child is self-engaged you might even glean a few moments to spark up a grown-up conversation (imagine that).
Having your own kitchen facilities helps save money and the hassle of eating out all the time with your child – just one or two meals a day at “home” can relieve the pressure and make for a more sane trip for all. At the very least, a fridge means you can store milk, cheese, and fruit for a quick family breakfast or makeshift lunch. Give yourselves the occasional “night in” by ordering room service or take-out. And don’t forget, picnics are a perfect option for kids this age.